How Not to Stimulate the Economy


The Wall Street Journal reports that there’s been a sudden outbreak of Christmas cheer on Capitol Hill, and the chances of a government shutdown on Friday are now almost nil. There’s also — maybe — been an outbreak of remarkable good sense. The biggest obstacle in the way of a deal has been figuring out how to offset the cost of an extension of the payroll tax cut, and the Journal reports that several new possibilities are now under consideration, including this one:

Another option is for the measure to be only partly offset by revenues or spending cuts elsewhere—an approach that Democrats and the White House have said they could support.

Well huzzah. The whole point of the payroll tax cut is that it’s supposed to be a short-term economic stimulus, and the best way to accomplish that is not to pay for it at all. If you cut taxes one place and raise them another, that doesn’t have much net effect. Likewise, if you give people more money to spend but then offset it with less government spending, that doesn’t have much net effect either. If you want to stimulate the economy via fiscal policy, the best way to do it is via straight-up deficit spending.

Unfortunately, the Journal says that lawmakers are only considering a plan to “partly” offset the payroll tax cut with other revenues or spending cuts. Too bad. That’s better than nothing, but better still would be to forget about offsetting it at all and just pass the damn thing.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.